Self-Driving

Audi opens Silicon Valley R&D office for development of advanced driver assistance systems

Audi's new Sand Jose office puts them in close proximity to Silicon Valley's software development team.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Audi has opened a new research and development office in San Jose, California with the aim of designing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) specifically for the North American market. Audi sees the location of the office (A2D2) as the key to its success, with the ability to collaborate with startup companies located within Silicon Valley.

"Given the rapid advancement of driver assistance technologies in North America, it's important to be part of the latest breakthroughs, work with leading edge of technology startups and attract the top talent," said Frank Grosshauser, senior director, ADAS, Audi of America. "We're looking to bring on as many as 60 engineers to develop new functionalities, catered specifically to North American Audi customer needs."

Audi Silicon Valley R&D A2D2A fleet of Audi Q7s are being used to test engineering advances.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

According to the automaker, the U.S. is expected to continue to lead the development of ADAS capabilities based on artificial intelligence. The cloud-supported process will push more advanced Level 2 and higher automated systems in the coming decade for use globally.

Level 2 driving automation is defined as enabling a vehicle to control both steering and acceleration/deceleration. It is not considered self-driving because a human sits in the driver's seat and can take control of the vehicle at any time.

What makes A2D2 unique is its focus on developing hardware and software specifically for North American roads and driving behaviors.

A2D2's first stage of activation included outfitting Audi Q7 development vehicles with roof-mounted sensor kits to collect data. Each was wrapped with a QR code that links to a webpage with information regarding the latest Audi automated driving breakthroughs and developments. Designers working in the Audi Design Loft in Malibu, California, created the unique graphics and logo specifically for A2D2.

The fleet of testing vehicles will be used for data acquisition to develop various cloud-based automated driver-assistance functions planned for introduction by 2023.

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New hot hatch

This is the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla

The GR Corolla is headed for our shores later this year.

Toyota

Car enthusiasts in the United States frequently have to watch as automakers release wild performance cars, particularly hatchbacks and wagons, that we can't get. Surprisingly, it's Toyota that is here to save us all. The automaker's GR Yaris hatchback made waves in global markets when it landed a couple years ago, and now it's bringing a beefed-up GR Corolla to the U.S. that will get many of that car's rally-inspired go-fast bits.

Two trims will be available at launch. The "entry-level" model is the Core trim, which comes later in 2022. In 2023, Toyota will release a limited Circuit Edition that gets upgraded performance components and a nicer interior.

The Corolla hot hatch shares its turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with the GR Yaris, but in the Corolla it got a bump to 300 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The car comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and Toyota's GR-Four AWD system. The driver can change the GR's power distribution to suit the situation and driving style. The system can send up to 70 percent of power to the rear.

2023 Toyota GR CorollaThe GR Corolla gets a turbocharged three-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive.

Though it's based on the standard car, the GR Corolla is wider than its counterpart, and features more weld points for better structural rigidity. Toyota says it used extensive structural adhesive throughout as well, which should further improve handling. The car rides on 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires standard.

The GR's interior features a driver-oriented setup with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a short-throw shifter positioned for easy reach by the driver. The Core trim comes with cloth upholstery and the Circuit Edition gets suede and synthetic leather. Both models offer sport seats with GR logos and the Circuit Edition brings heating for the front buckets.

Toyota will offer three packages to upgrade the Core Edition:

  • Performance package: front and rear Torsen limited slip differentials (LSD)
  • Technology package : JBL premium audio, navigation, and wireless smartphone charging
  • Cold Weather package: Heated front seats and heated steering wheel

2023 Toyota GR CorollaA six-speed manual transmission is the only option. Toyota

Toyota hasn't given out pricing details for the GR Corolla, but we should learn more soon. The Core trim is due out later this year and the Circuit Edition will be sold as a 2023 model year exclusive for the car's first year on sale.

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New mail delivery vehicles

USPS orders almost $3 billion in new mail trucks

The new mail trucks are scheduled to hit the streets next year.

USPS

Your mail carrier is about to get a huge transportation upgrade. The United States Postal Services (USPS) is retiring its current fleet of mail trucks, many of which have been on the road for more than 30 years. The Oshkosh Defense Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) is expected to hit the streets in 2023, and will mark a big step forward in safety, comfort, and even styling for the classic mail truck.

The $2.98 billion order is for 50,000 vehicles, around 10,000 of which will be electric - more than double the original number of EVs expected in the contract. The USPS' current fleet contains nearly 200,000 vehicles, many of which have been on the road for decades. They lack current safety features, are massively inefficient, and have long been a maintenance nightmare. The new trucks will be able to carry larger loads and will offer basic comfort and convenience features, such as air conditioning, a camera system, and traction control.

Oshkosh NGDVThe new vehicles offer numerous upgrades over the previous model. USPS

Even with the steep increase in the number of EVs, the USPS deal is still heavily tilted toward gas-powered trucks. As Reutersnotes, 80 percent of the trucks purchased will be powered by internal combustion engines. The Postal Service estimates its 20-year costs at $9.3 billion for gas mail trucks and $11.6 billion for EVs. Those numbers cover 75,000 new trucks and includes fuel, maintenance, and related costs.

Oshkosh won the USPS contract in 2021 after a years-long selection process. Controversy over the deal began almost immediately, as many were surprised at the number of gas vehicles. The current Grumman LLVs (long-life vehicles) were only intended to run for 24 years, but at this point, all of them have served much longer than that. A fleet of gas powered mail trucks purchased today could theoretically still be on the road deep into the 2040s, at which point most major automakers will have shifted to EVs.

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